US Department of State Daily Briefing #45 Wednesday, 3/25/92

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: Washington, DC Date: Mar, 25 19923/25/92 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, Europe, Southeast Asia Country: Iraq, Israel, USSR (former), Libya, Thailand, Turkey, Iran Subject: Military Affairs, Mideast Peace Process, Terrorism, POW/MIA Issues, Regional/Civil Unrest, Immigration, United Nations 12:14 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Libya: Suspects in Pan Am 103 Bombing Not Turned Over to Arab League/Security Council Resolution/Number of Americans in Country]

MS. TUTWILER: I don't have anything. I'll be happy to try to answer your questions. Q Well, your suspicions about Libya apparently are borne out. What is the game plan now for the U.S.? Have you lined up the British and French? Are you going to move ahead with the resolution? And is the reading here as negative as it is from unnamed Arab diplomats that those Libyans are not going to be produced? MS. TUTWILER: I agree with your opening statement that you agree with what we characterized as of yesterday. It appears that by inviting the Arab League mission to Tripoli, Libya raised expectations of some that Libya might finally be prepared to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 731. That apparently is not the case. Although we do not yet have an official report from Abdel Meguid, we have seen press reports that Libya has once again refused to comply. Unless Libya is ready now to comply with all the terms of Resolution 731, it is incumbent upon the Security Council to act to adopt the specific sanctions resolution being proposed by the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. State sponsors of terrorism must know that the international community will not tolerate threats to international peace and security, and is prepared to take concerted political action in the face of continuing Libyan defiance of international obligations and norms of behavior. Actual action items, Barry, right now, I do not envision that we will be tabling this resolution today. I wouldn't look for that to happen today. We are still actively, as we have been -- including, as I said, yesterday -- working with the various member nations of the Security Council on this second resolution, which, as you know, one of the things it contains is an air embargo. Q I think that's the only thing we know. Is there a general agreement on the other economic measures? Can you provide two or three of them by way of example? MS. TUTWILER: No, I can't at this briefing. Q Is that because there's no agreement on them yet? MS. TUTWILER: It's because we don't want to do this piecemeal. We'd rather have one resolution. We took an exception to our own rule of not discussing draft resolutions because we believe that even though -- I can't remember the year. What is it '81? -- there have not been valid passports to Libya for Americans. We believe there could be as many as 500 to 1,000 there. We wanted to give them the opportunity to know this is what we were working on in order to facilitate themselves, if they choose, to get out. Q Margaret, do you have any indication that any of them have? MS. TUTWILER: No. Again, we said we believe that's how many are there, and I believe that we said we think they're probably working on oil rigs or ventures, or oil wells. No, I don't. I'm not sure we have a way of tracking that, to be honest with you. Q It's about a week now, I think, since you urged them -- MS. TUTWILER: But since they don't register with us -- we don't have an Embassy -- we're just guessing at the number we think might be there. I'm not sure we have a mechanism for checking if they've gone. Q Any kind of timeframe on tabling that resolution? MS. TUTWILER: We probably have one in mind, but I'm not going to announce one in advance. We're working very diligently on this. I would steer you to sooner than later. Q Do you see a situation under which the Americans in Libya would be evacuated by the United States? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard that suggested, or anybody talking about that. Q Can you foresee a situation that that might occur? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have a crystal ball, but that would obviously be some type of Presidential decision -- not mine -- and I'd just be totally freelancing with you. Number 1, they're not supposed to, as you know, be there. They're not there with valid American passports. We took the effort last week to announce publicly one of the parts of this second resolution. So I haven't heard anyone talking along those lines, to be quite honest with you. Q Do you even have any idea how many are there? MS. TUTWILER: We think -- but it's a guess -- maybe as many as 500 to a 1,000, but that is only a guess on our behalf. Q Margaret, has the U.S. been in touch with the Arab League very recently, like today or yesterday, to discuss the outcome of that? MS. TUTWILER: We said yesterday that, yes, we had been in very close contact with them. As far as today, we have not yet had a readout from Abdel Meguid. Q Okay. My question was going to be whether you're aware if there were any discussions of the other provisions of the U.N. resolution beyond the ones requiring them to get rid of the two suspects? That's was the question -- MS. TUTWILER: I don't know yet. We don't have the readout. Q Margaret, -- MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me, Ralph. Prior to this, if you take yesterday's news and what the Libyan officials were saying, they were not addressing themselves to anything other than what was apparently floated of giving these two individuals to the Arab League. Q But the question was whether, in private discussions, the Arab League and the Libyans have discussed those other aspects; whether the U.S. -- whether the Arab League is conveying the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council view that the resolution contains more than just one provision? MS. TUTWILER: You would probably have to ask the Arab League about those conversations. Q Margaret, according to one report, Qadhafi says he is waiting for the outcome of the proceeding before the World Court. That's one thing we have heard. Would the United States also be waiting on anything in the World Court before moving in the Security Council? MS. TUTWILER: No. The two entities are not connected in any shape, fashion, or form. The International Court of Justice, it's my understanding, hears cases of state-to-state. The United Nations Security Council -- the International Court of Justice has no jurisdiction over it whatsoever, and the two are completely and totally separate. So, as you know, we are being represented on Thursday -- tomorrow -- by the legal counsel here to say that we strongly believe there is no justification even for the court hearing this case. Q Another subject? MS. TUTWILER: Yes.

[Iran: Salman Rushdie Death Threat]

Q As you know, Salman Rushdie, the British author, was in town yesterday. At a speech last night, he said that he had scheduled a meeting with members of the House and Senate but that meeting was abruptly cancelled yesterday under pressure from the leadership. The pressure, his handlers said, had been put on by the White House. Do you have anything to add to this? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of any White House pressure. What I am aware of, which is a routine matter, is that the Department, on any number of visits, is contacted by various members of Congress to ask what the Department's views are about whatever the visit is. Yes, indeed, members did contact this Department and asked what our views were on this private visit of Mr. Rushdie. The Department advised the concerned members that he, indeed, holds a valid United States visa; that his visit here is a private visit. We also advised that any decision to meet with him was a decision to be made by the members and not this Department. We also shared information that no Administration officials would be meeting with him while he's here on his private visit, and all final decisions were made by the members themselves. Q There are a number of members who are under the impression that there was pressure applied either by the State Department or the White House not to hold a scheduled meeting. What's your impression -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm aware of that impression. I have this morning personally, because I have seen the same reports that you've seen, asked the individuals who actually dealt with members, and they have told me there was no such pressure applied. They told them we, the Administration -- no one in this Administration is meeting with him on this private visit. Obviously, it's up to each individual member to make these decisions, whether it's this case or another one. I personally am not aware -- and I've talked to the people at the most senior level who were involved in this -- that they did any such thing. I'm not going to stand here and tell you -- in this building alone there are over 8,000 individuals; I've forgotten how many are at the White House -- that at a lower level someone could have said something. I just can't be held accountable. But the policy, I can be held accountable for, and I can be held accountable at the senior levels of what the policy was and what was articulated to the Hill. That's simply not the case. Q Do you have any comment on the fact that some members of the Congress, including apparently Senator Leahy, may, in fact, be meeting with Mr. Rushdie even as we speak? MS. TUTWILER: That's his call, which has always been the case, which we have always said when asked. They solicit our views, whether it's this case or in many other cases. It's a routine matter for members of Congress to seek the State Department's views when "X is in town." But that is quite different than saying that we, in this case -- maybe there have been cases where we've said, we would suggest you not meet. We've said what we were doing; we've said why; we gave our views. But each member makes up their own mind. Q Can you articulate the reason why no senior U.S. officials are meeting with Salman Rushdie? MS. TUTWILER: Because at this time we felt that such a thing could and possibly might be misinterpreted. Q By whom and in what way? MS. TUTWILER: That it could be misinterpreted by those individuals who, as you're well aware of, have an extreme dislike for Mr. Rushdie. We believe, as you know, strongly in freedom of speech. He is here. This is, as I recall, his second private visit in six months. He was in New York recently. Those were our views. As you know, on the issue of whether it's right or wrong that this death threat is on his head, we have been on the record since Day One of strongly saying what our views are concerning that. The Iranians are well aware of our views, and so we don't have any disagreement on that. Q Well, then, who is going to misinterpret them? Who is going to misinterpret them if they're out there like that. MS. TUTWILER: People could. Q Well, in what way? MS. TUTWILER: People could misinterpret it, it is our view. Q What's to be misinterpreted? You've just said that you're on the record as opposing the death sentence. MS. TUTWILER: Correct. Q And you've just said that the U.S. position on this has been known from the beginning. So what's to be misinterpreted by a U.S. meeting -- official meeting -- with Mr. Rushdie? MS. TUTWILER: I said that it could be misinterpreted. It could be misinterpreted by very -- I won't be funny with you -- but it could be misinterpreted by individuals who want to misinterpret it. Q If they already know that the U.S. opposes the death sentence on Mr. Rushdie -- MS. TUTWILER: It might not make any difference to them. Q -- and stands for freedom of speech, then what is there for them to misinterpret? MS. TUTWILER: It could be misinterpreted. That's what misinterpreters are all about. Q Are you saying that people might get the wrong impression that the United States is actually willing to stand up and put some oomph behind those words that you've just articulated by meeting with him? MS. TUTWILER: No. What do you mean? Q Are you saying that you're worried that you might be misinterpreted as taking a stronger stance in favor of free speech than you are, in fact, willing to take? MS. TUTWILER: No, we are not worried about that. I'm not aware, to be honest with you, that he has requested or asked -- or as John said, his handlers requested or asked -- to meet with any U.S. Government officials in the Executive Branch. I can stand to be corrected about that, but I couldn't find any request this morning. Had we been asked, our view was: This is a private visit. It's a private matter. We will not be meeting with this gentleman. Everybody else, we were told, when they asked us, what is your policy, how are you going to handle this, we said how we were going to. Bill just said that Senator Leahy is meeting with him right now. We said, fine. I don't even know if he's one of the ones who asked our views of this or not. Q You're the one that opened this can of worms by bringing up this thing -- MS. TUTWILER: No, I didn't open this. Q -- by bringing up this thing about -- MS. TUTWILER: I wanted to avoid it. Q -- by bring this thing up about being misinterpreted. I think that some of us, when we heard that phrase, wondered what exactly you were trying to say. Are you trying to say that you don't want to stir up angry feelings, possibly direct terrorist attacks against Americans, draw attention to the issue? You would rather handle it by making your usual boilerplate statement from here and hope that nobody pays attention to it? MS. TUTWILER: I'd rather handle it in the way that we have chosen to handle it today, to continue to say that it is our view of why, if we had been asked -- which I am not aware that the Executive Branch was -- we were going to not have a visit with this gentleman on this private visit while he's here. Q In his speech last night, Rushdie said that one of the reasons he wanted to meet with members of the House and Senate was that he was trying to evoke some clear expression of support for freedom of speech and for his right to write his novel and to be free of a death threat in much the same way that the British Government had done. Is the United States planning such a statement in support of Mr. Rushdie, and calling on Iran to free him from the death threat? MS. TUTWILER: The United States has consistently had this statement. I'll be happy to repeat it for you again. I cannot remember the first time it was made, but it is very consistent. It's been made publicly. The United States has repeatedly and publicly condemned the death threats against Salman Rushdie. Without going into the details of our exchanges, the Iranian Government is well aware of our position. We have called upon the Government of Iran to repeal the death threats against Mr. Rushdie. That is our standard policy on this subject. So I would be very surprised, to be honest with you, if Mr. Rushdie was not aware of that policy. Q But, Margaret, one of the things that he asked for was for sort of a redoubling of efforts by the United States diplomatically to try and work the Iranians on this issue. Are you planning to step up your efforts in that regard? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of an effort to step up our efforts. As you're well aware, we don't have exactly what I would call the closest of relationships with the Iranian Government, which, I agree with you, he is probably aware of. It's no secret. So what does he mean by "step up?" Q Well, the Secretary -- MS. TUTWILER: What is it specifically he's suggesting that the United States Government do? Q I think -- I'm guessing, but I think the -- MS. TUTWILER: I didn't hear his speech, so I don't know. Q -- Secretary's reputation for diplomacy is so stellar that Mr. Rushdie might wish that the Secretary might use it, as he has on so many other past occasions, to work the diplomatic circles -- as you are now working up the pressure on Libya -- to up the pressure on Iran through international circles? MS. TUTWILER: I'll see if there is some new diplomatic initiative that the Department is looking at concerning the situation with Mr. Rushdie. But I am quite positive that we have made our views known in the past to the Iranian Government. They're well known. We have from this podium -- and this Administration and others -- stated, what I have just restated today, what our policy is. I believe that most other nations that I'm aware of, or certainly a great deal of them, have the same view of this. Q Well, could it be that the Administration's preference for a low-profile policy in this case is somehow linked to the upcoming elections to the Majles in Iran in April in the hope of producing some more of those well-known Iranian moderates? MS. TUTWILER: Our policy is no different than the last time he was here on a private visit which was -- what? -- five or six months ago up in New York where, I believe, on that occasion he came here to give a speech. I believe on this occasion he is here as the guest of American University. I believe he gave a speech, and I also believe -- correct me if I'm wrong -- that his book is out now in paperback and that part of this, I believe, is connected with the advance or selling -- or whatever you want to call it -- promotion of the paperback version of this book. I could be dead wrong. I believe that's connected with the American University visit. Q But why the preference for a low-profile policy on the part of the U.S. Government? MS. TUTWILER: We're not handling this private visit, to be honest with you, any different than we handled the one in New York. That was a low profile -- your phrase -- visit in New York. I can't remember, but I think that was Columbia University, to give a speech. There's no difference. Q As he points out, something has changed since then. That is, the hostages have now been released, and that was one of the conditions that we -- the United States -- said for the possible renewal of relations with Iran. He is suggesting now that the hostage issue is gone, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the death threat on him ought to be another condition, and I wonder whether it is? MS. TUTWILER: I said to Johanna's question that I would be happy to look and see if we are taking a new or expanded look or reviewing our diplomatic initiative on this particular subject. I just didn't ask that question this morning. Q Could you say explicitly whether offending Iran was one of the reasons -- one of the possible consequences of this misinterpretation you're concerned about? MS. TUTWILER: I would steer you completely off of that. That is a misinterpretation of our enunication of why we were not going to meet with him. Q Maybe it would be helpful to -- MS. TUTWILER: It probably would. Q -- be more explicit about what concerns you about misinterpretation. What consequences were you worried about? MS. TUTWILER: I understand that. Some of you all have spoken and addressed yourselves to that this morning, and I'm going to leave it with, we viewed this as it could potentially, possibly be misinterpreted by some. Q Margaret, is the Administration afraid that some in Iran would interpret a U.S. meeting with Salman Rushdie as somehow associating the U.S. Government with the contents of the book? MS. TUTWILER: I have not heard that expressed; no. Q And, also, can you tell us whether Rushdie has requested either directly or indirectly U.S. Government protection -- security protection, as he has had from the Brits? MS. TUTWILER: He did not, nor did he on his first visit that was several months ago to New York, which we stated at the time -- as we do with any number of people who come to our country -- we have a feel and have an obligation to notify local authorities. And I have to refer all questions concerning that to the local authorities. But, no, he has not requested it, and we're not, you know, providing any. Q Can you clear up one point? MS. TUTWILER: I'll try. Q Did Mr. Rushdie ask for a meeting with someone from the Administration, and was he turned down? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I have any knowledge of. I will go back and double-check that, but I'm not aware of such a request in the Executive Branch. Q Can you tell us whether Secretary Baker spoke -- was among the officials who spoke with members of Congress about the question of whether to meet on this subject? MS. TUTWILER: No, he was not.

[Thailand: US Relations and Denial Of Visa for Prime Minister]

Q Could you tell us what might be the consequences for relations between the United States and Thailand of having a Prime Minister, Narong Wongwan, who U.S. agencies believe to be involved in international heroin trafficking? MS. TUTWILER: What I can tell you is that our relations with Thailand and the Thai people are longstanding and close. And in this context, as you know, yesterday we welcomed the return to constitutional processes throughout the parliamentary elections that were held on March 22. And now that these elections are over, Thai political parties are forming a new government. And I'm not going to get into "what ifs" until they, indeed, have had an opportunity to form that government. Q Could you tell us why the United States refused Mr. Wongwan a visa last summer? MS. TUTWILER: He was denied a visa in July 1991 under Section 212a(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states that any alien who the consular or immigration officer knows or has reason to believe is or has been an illicit trafficker in any controlled substance, or is or has been a known assister, abettor, conspirator or colluder with others in the illicit trafficking of any such controlled substance is excludable. Q So what you're saying in real English is that this guy was not allowed a visa because he was a known trafficker? MS. TUTWILER: I'm saying that his visa was denied in July of 1991 under the section of law I just said for the reasons that are all enunciated as part of our law. Q And does that section of the law provide that known drug traffickers or those who assist them cannot get visas? MS. TUTWILER: Cannot get visas? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: I said he was excludable for a visa. Q I said does that section of the law provide that known drug traffickers cannot receive visas? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not sure -- I mean, I've answered what this affects and how it affects our law. Q I'm just trying to get a clear -- MS. TUTWILER: I understand what you're trying to do. Q -- statement on what the law says. MS. TUTWILER: I'll read it to you again. Q No. I was just looking for it in plain English actually. [Laughter] MS. TUTWILER: Well, since this is legal, I think it's safer to stay with the actual text of this section 212a(2)(C) of our Immigration and Nationality Act. Q That's the one that prohibits anybody associated -- [laughter] -- with the drug trade -- is that it? -- from entering the United States? MS. TUTWILER: I'll be happy to read it again -- the actual language there in the law. Q Just checking. MS. TUTWILER: O.K.

[Former Soviet Union: US Funds for Nuclear Arms Collection/ US Aid]

Q Margaret, on the arms destruction program yesterday -- MS. TUTWILER: On the what? Q The arms destruction program taken question that was put out a couple of days ago -- somebody asked whether any of the $400 million has been spent. MS. TUTWILER: Right. Very little. Q Has any of it been spent? I see your answer here, but -- MS. TUTWILER: Right. The honest answer is very little. And the Secretary of State had a meeting this morning -- I think it went about 90 minutes -- with a number of relevant senior officials in this Department. One of the subjects that was addressed was the whole area of the $400 million that comes under strategic, nuclear, etc., and we're working on it. Q What? MS. TUTWILER: As you know, we have allocated the $25 million for the science center. That comes out of the $400 million. But an honest answer is very little, if any. Q Why is it taking so long? MS. TUTWILER: Governments, unfortunately, move slowly, and he is working on it. He's pushing. It's a gigantic government, it's a gigantic interagency process, and he is really trying, as are others. Q Who? I mean, who's "he"? Are you talking about high-level or -- MS. TUTWILER: The Secretary of State for this Department. Q Oh, O.K. MS. TUTWILER: Other members of the President's Cabinet are equally pushing as hard. I believe that you, hopefully, should see something shortly. I can give you an example. I recently -- just this week you saw the article on the possible purchase of Plutonium 238. It was widely reported that the State Department was blocking this, delaying this, etc. I looked into it. No one on the 7th Floor, which in my view -- and most people acknowledge -- is the policy level of this particular Department, had seen this yet. And that is not indeed what their view was. So I'm not ducking it. I'm just being honest. It's difficult to get things done. Q Margaret, there seems to be a pattern here on this -- the purchase on the arms, the purchase of the Plutonium and aid, aid to the former Soviet Union -- a pattern in which the United States is rather slow in responding to needs that everybody over there and a lot of other people, including former President Nixon, that suggested ought to go faster. MS. TUTWILER: On some things -- Q I just wonder whether -- and some people have suggested that the United States is dragging its feet simply because they wish to reduce the former Soviet Union to make sure that none of its industries can ever rise again to threaten the United States. MS. TUTWILER: I've read those opinions of unnamed people who serve in this government, and I would tell you that -- I would acknowledge to you that some things on our program -- and it is a vast, massive agenda -- have moved slowly. I've just pointed out a meeting that took place this morning in the political area, the humanitarian area, the technical area, the military arms area -- I believe those are the main ones -- legislative area. The whole nine yards. And we're going to be doing this at least once a week, if not more often. The Secretary of State chaired this meeting. He has any number of meetings with his colleagues, with the President at the White House on these types of things, but not everything has moved slowly. For instance, the United States of America is the first country, to my knowledge -- and we've checked this -- that is located on the ground, up and running, in 11 of the former Soviet republics. And I said yesterday we have just recognized Georgia. We believe that we will have people on the ground in place in Georgia by April 15. That is by government standards lightning speed, and so we are moving very rapidly in some areas. And I grant you in some it is -- takes a little longer. Q Was the meeting this morning also -- did it also address the question of how to package aid to the former Soviet Union on the Hill? MS. TUTWILER: How to package -- you mean the legislative vehicle? Q The issue of -- yes. MS. TUTWILER: It touched on that. There have been separate meetings -- numbers of them -- that the Secretary has had over the course of the last -- what? -- seven days on that. I still don't have any answer for you except, obviously, we are pretty much decided here at the Department on where we're going, and he will be discussing this, obviously, with his colleagues. He has not begun his formal consultations with the Hill yet, and I would not envision that that would happen today. Q Margaret, in answer to a question on Monday about how security was being provided for overland shipments of aid -- MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q -- in the Soviet Union, you put out a statement saying that a number of private voluntary organizations had signed contracts with the U.S. Government to provide security and oversight. Can you expand on that? What does that mean? MS. TUTWILER: Can I? No, but I can ask Rich Armitage to. The one I'm most familiar with and they just did was CARE, I believe, was designated by DOD -- and was it Energy? -- to help monitor this. Q Right. But the phrasing of the statement seemed to indicate that these PVOs, which are helping to deliver the aid, had somehow contracted with the U.S. Government to provide the security. Does this mean that they've bought the services of soldiers or some other group to provide security and oversight? I didn't understand the statement. I'm sorry. MS. TUTWILER: Not that I'm aware of. I'll check with Rich [Armitage]. It's my understanding, just like on our Provide Hope mission, as you know, we sent in special teams ahead of those airplane landings -- special teams that were interagency U.S. Government employees to identify where it will be delivered, how it will be delivered. We actually went with them while it was delivered to an orphanage or to an elderly persons retirement home, or something. And so my limited understanding of this -- Rich, as you know, lives with this every day -- is that your question was a very valid question, one that he had already identified and has a mechanism in place to ensure that it can transit safely. My understanding, from reading the same answer from his shop that you did, is that we are relying or soliciting or helping -- asking help from these private organizations. And I believe the statement concluded by saying that if we find this is not an effective means, then we'll cut it off and find a better one. So I'll see if he can either personally, you know, call you, or if we can get a more fleshed out example of how exactly it works. Q Margaret, a question on the Kurds. MS. TUTWILER: Kurds? Q Yes. What is the U.S. position on the recent, in the last few days, Kurdish unrest in southeast Turkey, and how does that balance with U.S. support for Kurdish revolts during the Gulf War? I mean, it's the same objective now as it was then -- Kurdish autonomy. MS. TUTWILER: I don't want to rehash old ground. As you know, we have never said that we supported, encouraged, etc., Kurdish revolt. That was the big debate, if you recall, at the end of the war. Without going into that, I can tell you what is going on, which is in southeast Turkey demonstrators clashed with the police during local Kurdish New Year's celebrations. PKK terrorists attacked Turkish security forces in the region. Press reports from the area indicate that over 50 people were killed in various incidents. PKK supporters in Europe have also attacked Turkish diplomatic and commercial offices as part of their campaign to create an independent Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey. The United States Government condemns acts of terrorism launched in the past week by the PKK terrorist organization in Turkey and abroad against officials and offices of the Turkish Government. We welcome the steps that the Turkish Government has taken to allow all its citizens, and specifically those of Kurdish descent, to exercise their human and cultural rights in the face of terrorist attacks which threaten their safety and security. In addition, we welcome the Turkish Government's efforts to act with restraint in response to PKK terrorist provocations, and we urge that every possible step be taken to avoid the death or injury of innocent citizens. Q Does flying air strikes on Kurdish camps fall under that "acting with restraint"? MS. TUTWILER: Is what? Q Flying -- the Turks flying air strikes -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of an air strike. There was an air strike this weekend? Q This morning. It was on the wires. MS. TUTWILER: I'm sorry. That's something I'm just -- hadn't heard about. Q And also last week. MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of air strikes. I'm aware of one about two weeks ago, as I recall. Q You commented on that one a couple of weeks ago. MS. TUTWILER: Right. But the most recent thing -- I haven't heard about this morning's -- was the, originally when I came to work on Monday it was 45 or 47 people; now we think that it may be over 50 in the weekend tragedy that has happened. I'm just sorry I haven't heard about an air strike this morning.

[Russia: Commission on US MIAs/POWs]

Q Margaret, one question on Russia, please. MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me? Q On Russia. United States and Russian Commission on MIA and POW affairs has begun a three-day meeting from today, and do you have any connection with the POW/MIA Commission with any U.S. aid to Russia, please? MS. TUTWILER: To Russia? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: Do we have any connection? We have State Department employees is my understanding. I'm getting confused. Ralph? Q I think the question is, is there a link between Russian cooperation on MIAs and POWs and U.S. aid to the former Soviet Union. MS. TUTWILER: Thanks. No problem. I have a southern accent. I just have a hard time. Q You do? [Laughter] MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q Why don't you ever use it at the briefing? [Laughter] MS. TUTWILER: I'll try. No, sir. I'm not aware of any connection with our aid. As you know, this is something the Secretary most recently discussed with his counterpart, the Foreign Minister, in Brussels. It's an ongoing dialogue on our bilateral relations with them, and they, as you point out, have just agreed to the formation of this commission. I thought they just left last night. You say the meeting begins today. Maybe it does. Q How has the State Department been involved in the meeting, in the sense of the personnel and issues that can be raised in that meeting? MS. TUTWILER: We have personnel who are attending this meeting. This is an idea that we developed with the Russians. I just -- unfortunately, I don't know at what level or who's heading up our team. Q Malcolm Toon. MS. TUTWILER: Who? You're right. Thank you. He reminded me. And I happened to have ridden down the elevator last night when I was leaving at 8:00 o'clock with a gentleman who was on his way to this meeting. That's why I'm surprised he said he had met this morning, but maybe he got there in time.

[Israel: Reported Transfer of US Patriot Technology]

Q Margaret, do you have anything on the timing of either the IG's report or the return of the Patriot-specific inspection team? MS. TUTWILER: Nothing new on either one of those. No. Q Not to leave that, you said -- would you still characterize that delegation that's there as falling under your rubric of going -- spending just a few days and returning -- MS. TUTWILER: Absolutely, and we said that yesterday. I just don't know when they're coming back. Q As far as you're concerned, "a few days" is still operative? MS. TUTWILER: Absolutely. Right. I had read a report before I came down this morning on the wires that they were coming back today. That's not true. We don't have a definite return, but, yes, it is still our view that it will be a few days. Q And is it still -- having had them on the ground there now, is it still the U.S. view that the delegation is dealing exclusively with Patriot-related issues? MS. TUTWILER: Absolutely. Q Back to the Kurdish issue, you repeatedly called the PKK as a terrorist organization, but -- MS. TUTWILER: In our view, it is. Q But the Voice of America seems to be avoiding this term and using every other adjective than "terorrist." Is the VOA following a separate policy? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know, because I'm not aware of what the VOA is saying. I'll be happy to look into it. Q Anything new on Round 5? MS. TUTWILER: No. We're still working the issue. Q Do you have any comment -- MS. TUTWILER: Barry, you know. Q "That round." MS. TUTWILER: Instantly you knew -- Round 5. Q You haven't heard from the delegations about suggested dates yet -- suggested places, I mean? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, we're working -- yes, there are lots of suggestions. There are lots of suggestions on dates, and we're quietly working this round also, as we have the others, in our diplomatic channels, but there are no decisions yet. Q What's the status of the -- if you were asked the question about a Baker trip to the region, would your answer be the same as it was a couple of weeks ago? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q You should have been here yesterday, Ralph. Q Sorry. I apologize. [Laughter] MS. TUTWILER: No problem. There's no truth to the rumor that's floating around that the Secretary's going to the region on April 10. Q Margaret, have some of the Arab parties now proposed some venues? They had not as the last round broke up. MS. TUTWILER: As you know, we haven't -- we get asked this repeatedly -- we haven't answered those questions, whether there are lists or non-lists or who's submitted lists, etc., so I'm going to steer away from that. We are working with all the parties to try to resolve this timing and venue question. Q But didn't you just say there had been lots of suggestions on time and venue -- MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q -- which led me to think, well, maybe somebody other than the Israelis have proposed some places. MS. TUTWILER: Yes, on this particular meeting, correct. Q Like the Agriculture Department instead of the State Department? [Laughter] Q Wait a minute. Let me try to clear that up. The Israelis -- you and the Israelis both said at the end of the last round that the Israelis had made suggestions of venues. Have any other parties to the talks made suggestions as to venue at this point? MS. TUTWILER: I don't believe that I said that here. I believe that I purposely did not respond to that question, which Barry, I believe, had asked me sometimes about, "Margaret, isn't it true," and I believe Johanna was asking me this, that the Israelis have indeed submitted a list, and that the Arabs indeed have not. And I have avoided answering the question concerning a list. Concerning Chris' question about Round 5, are we getting different suggestions on, you know, venue and timing, the answer is sure, but we have on every round. Q So you're making a technical distinction between a list -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm making a big distinction. Q -- and making suggestions. Is that correct? MS. TUTWILER: Without answering the question of whether there are or are not lists, you know that the United States -- you know the parties have different views on how long you would or would not continue in Washington, D.C. You know the United States' policy is that at the appropriate time we agree these should be moved closer to the region. So on a total, semi-kind of hypothetical, "lists" could be dealing with future and with the big picture, Round 5, is a specific, possibly, potentially upcoming event, and that is what we're dealing with on suggestions. Q I got it. Thank you. [Laughter] MS. TUTWILER: You got it. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:51 p.m.)